The Last Word on May 2013

The Last WordA roundup of articles, posts, tweets and emails you might have missed last month…

Must-read articles, posts & whitepapers

A False Dichotomy (ClickZ)

Most Effective Emails Are Personal (MediaPost)

Make Your Memorial Day Email Messages Memorable (E-Dialog)

Emails We Love: Hyatt Reservation Reminder (Movable Ink)

Four Types of Email Content that Your Customers Want Now (ExactTarget)

Social Commerce Revenue By Industry (GetElastic)

Google Makes Email More Interactive With Customizable Gmail Action Buttons (Techcrunch)

A new inbox that puts you back in control (Official Gmail Blog)

Insightful & entertaining tweets

@vantran_78: Obama email marketing had 166 segments and 84 of them were tests! #MKTG13 Testing is powerful. #truth

@maxymiser: Dell saw a 203% increase in student sales with free xBox-with-purchase promotion targeted to .edu domains. #TLE2013

@rblum: No welcome email < welcome email < generic onboarding stream < targeted behavior-based emails @LorenMcDonald #spop13 #emailmarketing

@ConstantContact: There’s no such thing as a good email list that’s for sale. << We couldn’t agree more, RT if you’re with us.

@GraceofWrath: Did you know you can watch the #insideamy trailer and read @amyschumer‘s tweets IN THE EMAIL? @movableink is magic.

@ETscreens: Remember to use responsive templates if you want your emails to look awesome on me.

@DenZhadanov: Samsung Android Screen Sizes: 2.8 3.14 3.2 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.65 3.7 3.97 4 4.2 4.27 4.3 4.5 4.52 4.65 4.8 5 5.3 5.5 5.8 6.3 7 7.7 8 10 10.1

@shannonholato: I like big buttons & I cannot lie #SPOP13 #email #design

@andrewkordek: “Automated messages” = Set and optimize…plus you need to spot test your automated messages every 4-5 months. #mpeis

@jesshastings: “Customers know we have a lot of data about them and expect us to use it.” -Jamie Nordstrom #MKTG13

@iamelliot: LinkedIn just emailed me to tell me that I left a new comment on a discussion. Cretins.

Great additions to the Email Swipe File pinboard

Toms email sent on 4/12/13 >> View the pin

Mothercare email sent on 9/10/12 >> View the pin

Pandora email sent on 4/12/13 >> View the pin

Ann Taylor email sent on 5/6/13 >> View the pin

Noteworthy subject lines

ASPCA, 5/23 — OK Tornado: What You Can Do‏
The Container Store, 5/17 — Go where laundry has NEVER gone before‏ [plays off release of the latest Star Trek movie]
Tiffany & Co., 5/2 — The Jewels of The Great Gatsby‏
The North Face, 5/22 — Help preserve our planet by recycling apparel at our stores‏
Subway, 5/29 — Take a look! This meal is certified by the American Heart Association.
Walmart, 5/13 — Special Buys? ✓ Clearance? ✓ More cash in your wallet? ✓
ModCloth, 5/29 — Your 10 most-pinned items are on sale!
Sony, 5/1 — #XperiaTablet, the World’s Thinnest | Just Unveiled‏
Nikon Store, 5/31 — Get Inspired with Nikon World Magazine‏
Wayfair, 5/13 — Bar-raising pub seating, style your coffee table, accent furniture, rugs, and garden gear‏
Karmaloop, 5/6 — The Sale You’d Like To…
Threadless, 5/2 — The sorting hat knows which of these back in stock tees you belong in.
ModCloth, 5/26 — Your styling questions answered by our ModStylists®!
Neiman Marcus, 5/26 — Pre-Fall Trend: Violet Hues‏
Wayfair, 5/27 — Shop made-in-the-USA furniture to celebrate Memorial Day‏
Sears, 5/27 — Today, we raise the flag and drop our prices, way low!
Urban Outfitters, 5/26 — Salute the flag, dudes!
Lululemon, 5/11 — no mama drama – send an egift card
Dunkin Donuts, 5/2 — The best Mother’s Day carDD ever‏
Staples, 5/6 — Great gifts for Moms & grads!
HP, 5/5 — Celebrate your grad with these campus pre-reqs‏
TigerDirect, 5/3 — Top Cinco PCs, HDs, TVs & More‏
Lego, 5/1 — May the 4th be with you!

Most popular posts on

1. Promoting Sister Brands without Violating Permission

2. The State of Welcome Emails #Infographic

3. Yahoo Mail Hacking Reveals Do-Not-Reply Failures

4. Quarter of B2C Marketers Send a Welcome Email Series

5. The One-Two Punch of Subject Lines and Preheaders

If you missed my webinar, “The Good, the Bad, and the Best: Practices for a Post-Wild West Email Marketing World” earlier this week, the slides (with notes) and a recording of the hour-long webinar are now available.

View the slides on SlideShare >>

Watch the webinar recording (registration required) >>

The Good, the Bad and the Best

Adopting email marketing best practices isn’t about ticking boxes. It’s about execution. During this webinar I discuss a variety of best practices and share real-world examples of brands with good, bad and the best executions. Topics covered include signup forms, welcome emails, mobile-friendly emails, preheaders, personalization, unsubscribe pages, and more.

A swipe file is a record of your top-performing campaigns that you return to for learnings and ideas. It was this concept that inspired us to create the Email Swipe File on Pinterest, where we share the emails and landing pages that excite and impress us. We’ve already shared nearly 150 examples of email awesomeness dating all the way back to 2006—and there’s much more to come.

The Best of the Email Swipe FileIn The Best of the Email Swipe File, we highlight the 20 examples from the past year that we love most and put them in the context of five trends that are having a major impact on email design:

  • Mobile-Friendly: The shift from wide screens and mice to narrow screens and fat fingers
  • Personalization: A key tactic for making messages more personally relevant
  • Triggered Sophistication: Longer campaigns, smarter content and better triggers
  • Editorial Voice: The influence of content marketing’ success
  • Inspired Fundamentals: The tactics that have been effective for years and years

Learn more about these trends, see which emails and landing pages we loved best, and check out the ideas we most hope you’ll steal, test and make your own. Get inspired!

>> Download The Best of the Email Swipe File

Considering the complexities and high volume of our industry, mistakes are practically unavoidable. But just because you’ve made a mistake doesn’t mean an apology email is necessary.

Most brands won’t send a single apology email over the course of a year, and in recent years less than one-tenth of one percent of email volume is apologies for email mistakes. To say that apology emails are rare is an understatement.

When considering whether to send an apology and correction, remember that most of your subscribers will not have seen the email with the mistake in it. So apologizing draws additional attention to the error and sending that additional email may lead to annoyance and more unsubscribes.

With that in mind, here are some mistakes that I would not apologize for:

May 21, 2013 Costco emailFormatting errors: An ugly, broken-up email is a reminder to be more diligent with your coding and do pre-send rendering testing, but not a cause for an apology. Just a couple of days ago Costco sent an email where their 3-column-6-row product grid broke, becoming a 1-column-18-row grid. They smartly let it go and moved on.

Typos: Unless the typo is in your coupon code or creates a profane word, it’s good to let these go as even subscribers who read the email may not notice them or will be able to figure out what you meant using sentence context. Typos in subject lines are not a special case—let those go too.

For instance, on Cyber Monday in 2011, Linens-N-Things had the following typo in the subject line of their third email of the day: “Last Chance: Cyber Monday Deals End in 60 Miutes”. They responded 2 hours later by sending an apology email—their fourth email of the day—with this subject line: “Oops! Sorry for the Typo: Cyber Monday Deals End in Minutes!‏” On the highest-volume day of the year, this was an ill-advised risk.

Deployment misfires: Sending out an email at the wrong time, especially with missing content, is painful and potentially embarrassing. But even these are worth letting go in most cases.

For instance, in 2007, Drs. Foster & Smith sent out a “Happy Thanksgiving” seasons greeting email a full week early. They didn’t send an apology or resend it the following week. They just let it stand as an early seasons greeting.

And earlier this year, accidentally sent out an email promoting BCS championship gear 24 hours before the game was to take place. They sent an apology, but it was really unnecessary as it was clearly an error to those most likely to buy the gear. They should have just sent the email after the game as planned and in the meantime used the landing page to make it clear that championship gear would be available at the conclusion of the game “tomorrow.”

All that said, here are the three email mistakes that would cause me to send an apology:

1. An email error that seriously impairs the message, such as the wrong coupon code for the primary message or mistakes in the critical links in an email.

Backcountry email2. An email accidentally sent to the list of a sister brand. Permission is sacred. Accidentally violating it is worth apologizing for and making it clear that they won’t receive any more messages from the sister brand—with the subtext being, “Please don’t mark that email as spam.”

3. An email that was unintentionally offensive. For example, in 2011, sent an email with the headline “Mother Nature Hates You. Deal with It.” That email was sent on the same day that lethal tornadoes devastated Alabama. Backcountry wisely sent an apology, explaining themselves and saying they were wrong in no uncertain terms.

I hope you’re able to avoid an apology-worthy email mistake, but it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place and an apology email drafted, just in case.

Once Again, I Double-Dog Dare You!

MediaPostIn 2008 and 2010 I double-dog dared marketers to experiment with some little-used, out-of-the-box, perhaps even weird tactics. Some of those tactics are not so uncommon anymore while others are just as rare as they ever were.

Since it’s been more than three years and email marketing is all about experimentation, I think we need some fresh dares. So here we go. I dare you—no, I double-dog dare you!—to… Read my entire Email Insider column >>

You can now find every image posted on on Pinterest. Just visit the Email Marketing Rules pinboard or click on any image in any of my posts and you’ll be taken directly to the pin on Pinterest.

Also be sure to check out ExactTarget’s other pinboards including:
Email Swipe File
Facebook Swipe File
…and many more.

Happy pinning!

Visit Email Marketing Rules' pinboard on Pinterest

If you operate more than one brand, it can be tempting to abuse an email opt-in at one of your brands by extending it to your other brands. Because of the dangers of increased spam complaints, the vast majority of brands wisely resist this temptation and many smartly use their email programs to raise awareness of their other brands and secure additional opt-ins.

Gap signup pageThe opportunities start with the email signup form and signup confirmation page. For instance, Gap uses a universal email opt-in page that allows a consumer to sign up for emails from multiple brands at the same time, along with product category preferences as well.

Promoting Sister Brands in Headers and FootersEvery email you send offers an opportunity to raise awareness of your other brands and drive subscribers to the websites of your sister brands. For instance, Toys “R” Us promotes Babies “R” Us in the header of each of their promotional emails. Garnet Hill does the same thing with their Garnet Hill Kids brand.

Because header space is so valuable, it’s more common to promote sister brands in footers. I often refer to these as “sister brand bars,” similar to a social media bar that promotes the social networks where you are active. For instance, Banana Republic, SeaWorld, Neiman Marcus and Crate & Barrel include the logos of all of their sister brands at the bottom of their emails.

Email from Anthropologie sister brand TerrainTaking it up a notch, some brands have included secondary messaging from sister brands, although it’s much more common to send full, dedicated emails from a sister brand. For instance, West Elm periodically sends their subscribers emails from West Elm Market; and Anthropologie recently sent their subscribers an email about their sister brand, Terrain. That email smartly included an opt-in request to get emails from Terrain.

The rule that keeps brands honest when doing this is that these emails should use your usual sender address (preferably your usual sender name as well) and the unsubscribe should cover the brand they opted in to receive messages from, not just the sister brand. If that seems like too big of a risk, then you should stick to the less invasive tactics like sister brand bars.

Whatever your approach, take advantage of the email opt-in you do have to try to secure others, just as you use your email program to build your social following.

The Good, the Bad and the Best: Practices for a Post-Wild West Email Marketing World

Register for this webinarAdopting email marketing best practices isn’t about ticking boxes. It’s about execution. Join me on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. (EDT), as I discuss a variety of best practices and share real-world examples of brands with good, bad and the best executions. Topics to be covered will include signup forms, welcome emails, mobile-friendly emails, preheaders, personalization, unsubscribe pages, and more.


Email Marketing RulesMy book on email marketing best practices, Email Marketing Rules, is now available in paperback with a Foreword by Jay Baer, the President of Convince & Convert, author of Youtility, and co-author of The NOW Revolution. Jay is that rare individual that understands how social media, email marketing and content marketing all work together. I am honored to have him write the foreword, where he discusses the currency of modern marketing.

I am also happy to announce that for every paperback purchased through’s CreateSpace I will donate $1 to the ExactTarget Foundation to support projects and programs that reduce childhood hunger, improve education, and spur entrepreneurship. To learn more about the Foundation’s work, please visit

Buy Kindle Book on AmazonBUY THE KINDLE BOOK ($4.99) >> available exclusively around the world through (Download the free Kindle Reader app to read it on any smartphone, tablet or computer.)

Buy Paperback on CreateSpaceBUY THE PAPERBACK ($11.99) >>  $1 is donated to the ExactTarget Foundation for every book purchased through’s CreateSpace

If ever there was a channel where “set it and forget it” thinking doesn’t work, email marketing is that channel. Things are always changing and marketers have to keep up. My favorite indicator that marketers are falling behind is old copyright dates.

CNN signup confirmation request emailWhile some brands now automatically update these dates, you may consider manually updating them as a way to force yourself to go in and actually look at your promotional email template, triggered emails, preference centers, and other landing pages at least once a year. Reviewing these more frequently—like every 3-6 months—is best, but once a year is better than having them slip through and go unchecked for two or more years.

For instance, CNN requires that people register with their site in order to receive emails and participate in the CNN community and part of that process includes an opt-in confirmation request email. That email carries a copyright of 2007—which means that it hasn’t been updated in five or so years. That’s a lifetime in the world of email marketing and it shows in this email, which doesn’t have the current CNN logo and could benefit from sharper copy.

Crutchfield welcome Carrying a 2009 copyright, Crutchfield’s welcome email has also been forgotten for too long. Its logo and navigation bar are both out of date. And while the copy was really good for 2009, it could be doing more, especially considering all the excellent new content and social efforts Crutchfield now has at their disposal.

LifeWay’s email signup confirmation page carries a 2011 copyright and could also benefit from some updating. The page squanders the opportunity to further engage new subscribers by not offering even a single call-to-action or doing any additional expectation setting for their email program. Suffering from a bad case of Back Alley Syndrome, this lonely page doesn’t even have Lifeway’s standard website navigation bar or footer.

LifeWay email signup confirmation pageMake sure you’re reviewing your email templates, triggered emails, and landing pages on a regular basis by first taking an inventory of all your different assets and then creating a schedule for regular reviews of each one.


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